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Species Guide
A photo of a Cape Longclaw (Macronyx capensis)
Cape Longclaw

Cape Longclaw

Macronyx capensis

The Cape longclaw, or orange-throated longclaw, Macronyx capensis, is a passerine bird belonging to the Motacillidae family, which includes the longclaws, pipits, and wagtails. This bird is a medium-sized species, measuring 19–20 cm in length, with the adult male displaying a grey head, a buff supercilium, and a streaked blackish back. A bright orange gorget and a black breast band are set against its otherwise yellow underparts. The female is somewhat less vivid, with a yellow throat and a more subdued breast band, while the juvenile features a dirty yellow throat, an indistinct breast band, and yellowish white underparts.

Identification Tips

When identifying the Cape longclaw, look for the male's striking orange throat patch bordered by a black breast band. The bird's grey head with a buff stripe above the eye (supercilium) and streaked back are also key features. Females and juveniles are less colorful but can be recognized by their overall shape and the presence of a yellowish throat.


The Cape longclaw is typically found in coastal and mountain grasslands, often in proximity to water sources.


This species graces the landscapes of Southern Africa, with its presence recorded in Zimbabwe and the southern and eastern regions of South Africa.


Cape longclaws are often observed in pairs throughout the year, rarely forming larger groups. They exhibit a distinctive behavior of perching atop stones, anthills, or large tufts of grass, standing erect with their chests puffed out. This species is ground-feeding, primarily consuming insects and some seeds.

Song & Calls

The melodious song of the Cape longclaw is a musical "cheewit cheewit," while its contact call is a sharp "tsweet." An additional mewling alarm call can also be heard, particularly when the bird feels threatened.

Similar Species

The Cape longclaw bears a remarkable resemblance to the unrelated icterid meadowlarks of the Americas, a likeness believed to be a result of convergent evolution due to similar ecological niches.

Diet and Feeding

The diet of the Cape longclaw consists mainly of insects and is supplemented by some seeds. They forage on the ground, adeptly picking their food from the grasslands they inhabit.

Conservation status

The Cape longclaw is currently classified as Least Concern by the IUCN, indicating that, at present, there are no immediate threats to its population numbers that would warrant a higher level of concern.

Cape Longclaw Sounds

Recorded by: © 
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